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Central America & Mexico: 2020 Hurricane Season - Situation Report No. 5 (As of 8:00am EST 26 November 2020)

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This report is produced by OCHA in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 20 to 25 November 2020.


  • National response authorities and humanitarian organizations continue to respond to the various impacts that tropical storm Eta and Hurricane Iota caused in a two-week span, impacts that are yielding long-term consequences that may pose challenges for years to come.

  • Several organizations are issuing emergency appeals to begin supporting actions over coming months that seek to reach hundreds of thousands of affected people with targeted interventions in WASH, protection, food security and nutrition, health and shelter.

  • Although the hurricane season is nearing its typical end, Central America is set to take on seasonal cold fronts starting in December, which will bring added rain to various communities contending with the Eta and Iota’s aftermath and pose potential flooding and landslide threats amid slowly receding floodwaters, high river levels and soil saturation.

43K Homes damaged or lost after Eta and Iota in Nicaragua
Source: Government of Nicaragua

3M People affected by Eta in Honduras
Source: COPECO

850K People affected by Iota in Honduras Source: COPECO

188K People remain cut off from access in Honduras
Source: COPECO

1.5M People directly affected by Eta and Iota in Guatemala
Source: CONRED

32.8K People still at risk in Guatemala after Eta and Iota
Source: CONRED


Three weeks after Tropical Storm Eta’s widespread impact across Central America and Mexico, impacts that Hurricane Iota aggravated two weeks after Eta, national authorities and humanitarian organizations continue to respond to immediate needs while also aligning long-term response strategies based on more comprehensive information from the field. Response operations are beginning to lay the groundwork to respond to the longer-term consequences of the two storms, with several organizations issuing emergency appeals seeking to provide support in various sectors as persistent shelter, WASH, food security, health and protection needs become increasingly inter-related recovery challenges. These challenges may last for years and will, together with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that is conditioning response considerations in an unprecedented manner, further exacerbate the region’s longstanding crises and require commensurately scaled-up and sustained support from the international humanitarian community.

Nicaragua provided a detailed report on the collective impact of Eta and Iota, noting the significant damage to infrastructure in 56 municipalities, including damage to 98 per cent of the road network, and damage to or loss of more than 43,000 homes. Immediate Government response, in some cases supported by UN organizations and humanitarian partners with operational presence in country, includes supply deliveries of food and roofing and health assistance via medical brigades, among other priority actions. Officials continue working to restore basic service access for water, power and telecommunications.

The Government cites the damage to be worth about US$617 million and economic losses to be about US$121 million. Together with overall response expenditures, officials say the two storms are going to cost Nicaragua about 6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a figure they are validating with the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the World Bank and the European Union. The Government adds that they are still carrying out evaluations in the agricultural sector and preparing family agriculture bonuses to mitigate food insecurity.

Honduras reports that the number of people affected by Iota now exceeding 850,400 and that the number of people sheltered between both storms approaching 100,000. Iota’s impact in the Sula Valley has been as severe, if not worse, than Eta’s impact. The COPECO civil protection agency is still seeking to reach more than 188,000 people cut off, impeding completion of ongoing damage evaluations and distribution of humanitarian aid to all who require it. In areas where access has been restored, the Government is seeking to begin cleanup and sanitation, as well as begin reactivating local economies. Response activity in Honduras is growing, with 27 reporting organizations working across all but one of the country’s 18 departments, supporting Government efforts with nearly 300 response deployments and delivery of NFIs, food, water and medical supplies.

Despite no longer dealing with the high winds and heavy rains of the two storms, there is still concern over soil saturation, floodwaters that are still not completely receding, as well as damage to flood prevention infrastructure and dam capacities at or near 100 per cent ahead of seasonal cold fronts that stand to bring additional rain.

Guatemala’s CONRED civil protection agency reports that the cumulative effects of Eta and Iota have directly affected 1.5 million people, driving 31,400 people to official shelters and another 219,900 to unofficial shelters. Infrastructural damage includes more than 48,700 homes with moderate to severe damage and nearly 100 damaged or destroyed bridges.

CONRED indicates that the most affected departments are, in order of magnitude, Alta Verapaz, Izabal, Quiché and Huehuetenango, indicating pressing needs in WASH, food security, shelters and shelter management and economic recovery.

Government response operations have thus far delivered more than 2.6 million lbs. of aid across the country. Response activity is focused on Alta Verapaz and Izabal, with 14 partners working in the two departments providing NFIs, water, food and technical assistance, among other actions. Humanitarian operations in Guatemala will receive the support of a newly arrived UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team and a MapAction deployment to assist coordination and information management in the priority departments of Izabal and Alta Verapaz through their departmental emergency operations centres (EOCs).

Although these three countries represent the majority of damage and effects stemming from these two storms, other countries in the region are nevertheless addressing relevant humanitarian needs and receiving support from international humanitarian presence in country. El Salvador, who have downgraded alert levels over time, continue to respond to people still in shelters from tropical storm Amanda, the Nejapa landslide and/or Eta and Iota. El Salvador, who has downgraded alert levels over time, continue to respond to people still in shelters from tropical storm Amanda, the Nejapa landslide and/or Eta and Iota. In addition to ongoing support to Government shelter response, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) sector leaders in Shelter, WASH, Protection and Food Security supported the Ministry of the Interior on a field visit to active shelters to gather more information for further needs analyses and long-term response.

Belize’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) reports that much of the country is still experiencing Iota-related flooding, with flood warnings in effect in for the Corozal, Orange Walk, Cayo and Belize districts that are prompting NEMO to urge residents of riverside communities to move to safety. NEMO is concerned with water contamination as a major health threat, as Iota left rains as high as 10 inches in southern and central Belize. There are still 288 people in 14 shelters across 3 districts and affected roads and bridges cutting various communities. UN teams in Belize are supporting response to needs in nutrition, child protection, WASH, food security and shelter.

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